I agonize over blog posts. I’ve sweat over single words in 5,000-word stories. Tonight, I spent ten minutes with an editor trying to wrestle an eight-word clause into place. I’m still not sure it’s right.
Before my best stories—even when I’m nearly sure they will be good, or at least should be good, because the material is there—my overwhelming feeling is, You’d better not f*** this up, stupid. My feeling is that if I somehow blow it, if I somehow fail these astronauts or dead soldiers, then I need to quit the business, never to write again. Because only a failure could fail people like that. Only someone like me could betray them.
And yet I keep writing. I’ve written something every day this year.
As regards any specific book, I’m trying primarily to tell a story, in the most effective way I can think of, the most moving, the most exhaustive. But I think even that is incidental to what I am trying to do, taking my output (the course of it) as a whole. I am telling the same story over and over, which is myself and the world…I’m trying to say it all in one sentence, between one Cap and one period. I’m still trying to put it all, if possible, on one pinhead. I don’t know how to do it. All I know to do is to keep trying in a new way. I’m inclined to think that my material, the South, is not very important to me. I just happen to know it, and don’t have time in one life to learn another one and write at the same time. Though the one I know is probably as good as another, life is a phenomenon but not a novelty, the same frantic steeplechase toward nothing everywhere and man stinks the same stink no matter where in time.
None of this is easy. It’s not supposed to be easy, even for the great ones. The pernt is to show up and keep working.